Market a new tool to manage megacities

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-11-28 0:13:02

Beijing is bidding farewell to low-price subway tickets. The era of 2 yuan ($0.33) tickets is coming to an end next month. However, even with the fare increase and a flexible pricing mechanism, the break-even point for Beijing's subway system still remains hopelessly out of reach. But this new policy heralds the market's introduction into social management, which will play an important role in reshaping the city.

Chinese metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai appear on some lists of the world's most expensive cities. These rankings might be arguable, but living in China's megacities is inarguably more expensive than it used to be.

With the price rise, commuters living in Beijing's suburbs will probably have to spend 100 or 200 yuan more each month. This is not big money, but it reflects the steady rise in the general cost of living, the upward trajectory of which is putting pressure on many new Beijingers.

Re-pricing tickets has been a subject of public debate in Beijing for years. As a city whose population is bigger than that of a medium-sized European country, Beijing is building one of the world's most sizeable underground rail networks, making low ticket prices outdated.

China is well on its way to establishing a comprehensive market-oriented economy, one whose rapidly growing resources center around big cities. Even in advanced economies, small and medium-sized towns are declining, while big cities grow in size, extending their lead over smaller rivals.

But living in big cities, many people find that with more opportunities come greater social problems.

A continuous population influx has dramatically increased the cost of living in megacities, a heavy burden for new arrivals. This is a sign that the law of market is having more a significant impact on social management. A growing number of people will eventually find out that life in the city is difficult.

The core logic of the megacity is one of competition. Fear of failing and being marginalized is a constant even for lifelong residents of these cities.

To some extent, the life of Chinese people when the country was shackled by a planned economy was much simpler than today. But in a market economy, the size of a city is playing an increasingly important role in reshaping the life of its citizens, with much new new research on how the growth of cities affects people's livelihoods. However, China does not have much experience in this regard. Most young people don't know what is behind soaring real estate prices in Beijing.

Embracing markets has helped the Chinese economy to boom, but it remains unseen whether introducing market principles will also improve China's city management. Markets are a double-edged sword, and challenges will continue to arise.

Posted in: Editorial

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